Skiing Toward Success

At Vail Resorts, assistant general counsel Emily Barbara has made notable achievements with her merger and acquisition work

A skier at Whistler Blackcomb in Canada Photo by Juana Nunez/

When Emily Barbara was cutting her teeth in the legal industry, she started not in the corporate sphere but as an associate attorney at the Bryan Cave law firm, which provides counsel for business, institutional, and individual clients. Barbara came into her own, however, by performing merger and acquisition (M&A) work for the firm. A graduate of St. Louis University School of Law, she spent three years working at Bryan Cave before moving to the renewable energy company SunEdison as in-house assistant general counsel. From there she took a position as associate general counsel at Post Holdings, a consumer packaged goods holding company, where she spent a couple of years before moving on to her current role at Vail Resorts, where she’s been for four years.

Barbara is assistant general counsel and assistant corporate secretary for the company, which not only owns and operates thirty-seven mountain resorts in three countries, but also has divisions for hospitality and development, in which it owns and manages hotels, condos, and golf courses, and oversees property development. Her responsibilities include oversight of corporate governance, securities, M&A, contracts, and intellectual property law.

In addition, Barbara manages a legal team of eight people. While her team isn’t large, managing it provides plenty of challenges. She describes herself as a doer, so she’s had to learn how to delegate work and figure out the nuances of managing a team in her current position. Her previous merger and acquisitions experience has also served her well: in 2016, she worked on Vail Resorts’ successful acquisition of Whistler Blackcomb, a ski resort in Canada. The resort is the largest in North America, with the highest vertical rise on the continent; it was also the official venue for alpine skiing events in the 2010 Winter Olympics, and for several years running Ski Magazine ranked it the best resort in North America. The $1.4 billion deal was one of the most important of Barbara’s career.

Barbara’s excellent work hasn’t gone unnoticed. In 2019, she received a First Chair Award recognizing her excellence as assistant general counsel; the awards are designed to honor top in-house counsel who have made significant contributions to the legal community through their hard work and innovation.

When she’s not managing her team and creating successful M&A deals for Vail Resorts, Barbara indulges her passion for the outdoors. Her employer also committed to environmental sustainability, which meshes well with Barbara’s interests. Vail Resorts has multiple environmental initiatives in place, the most notable of which is its Commitment to Zero: the company is working to create zero net emissions, send zero waste to landfill, and create zero operating impact on forests and habitats by 2030. It is a tall order for any company, but Vail Resorts is firmly dedicated to environmental sustainability.

Ultimately, Barbara’s work with Vail Resorts has presented plenty of challenges both in and out of the corporate sphere. Her success in the M&A division and strong leadership of her team, though, indicate that she’s doing just fine.


Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP is proud to work with Vail Resorts as a trusted business advisor. We are a global law firm distinctively positioned in today’s marketplace, with more than 1,200 lawyers and 18 offices.



“Acquisitions are a key strategic priority at Vail Resorts. In leading its M&A effort, Emily has not only guided Vail Resorts through an unprecedented series of acquisitions in the company’s history but also has helped reshape the entire ski industry. Few can rival the impact Emily has made.”

–Keith Trammell, Partner